In Oak Park, it’s hard to associate the name Wright with anything other than Frank Lloyd. The iconic architect’s presence is felt throughout the village.
His inspiration continues more than 50 years after his death. But two years ago, one music historian embarked on a mission to ensure that one influence on Frank Lloyd Wright’s style would be heard.
Oak Parker David Patterson contends that much of Frank Lloyd’s inspiration stems from the music of his composer father, William Carey Wright, the lesser known Wright, whose work Patterson has devoted countless hours to bringing back to life.
Recently, he has undertaken a project that will expose the never-before-recorded music Patterson has collected from archives in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and the Library of Congress, among other locations.
“Throughout his life [Frank Lloyd] borrowed concepts and ideas from music and translated them into his own approaches to architectural design,” Patterson said.
Like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony — a piece Patterson said Wright claimed he could match if he’d pursued music — the basis of Wright’s architectural work can be broken down into basic grid patterns seen in musical composition.
But to understand that, you have to explore its origins.
According to Patterson, William Carey Wright took his family to different parts of the country, exposing his son to nature and a wealth of different architectural styles that eventually influenced his son’s style.
Constructing the plans for a building, much like a musical opus, involves starting from an organic idea and growing it from there. The turn of the century was a boom time for both music and architectural changes and Frank Lloyd brought the two in harmony.
“It was certainly to be emulated,” Patterson said.
Still, it wasn’t an easy task to draw parallels between the two.
“Music and architecture have been in discussion for 2,000 years now at least,” Patterson said. “The challenge is to create the bridge between an art you can see … and an art of sound.”
Wright’s building style, he explained, has a way of “pushing you” through the house in a natural motion, just as a music guides you through a composition.
“Frank Lloyd Wright said more than once if he hadn’t been an architect, he would be a composer,” Patterson said, recalling that Wright called music his “sympathetic friend.”
There are gaps in the research about Frank Lloyd Wright’s life; Patterson assumes the sheer magnitude of researching the subject allowed people like his father to fall through the cracks.
“No one has talked about him much,” Patterson said. “I am hoping this project can spark dialogue and that can change.”
He has accumulated about 25 pieces through unwavering dedication to the project and help from Wright’s family members, but he suspects about a half a dozen are missing.
“It’s been really fascinating to unearth this music again — not just in one place but several,” he said. “You can’t wait until you get that last bit of information because there is no such thing.”
The research may never end, but the project itself is entering its next stage as Patterson is gearing up for the recording of the best mix of William Carey Wright’s music. He’s lined up to record at Eloquent Sound in Oak Park, has a singer and is working on recruiting musicians.
Although Patterson is doing all he can to fund the project, “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Music Origins: The Music of William Carey Wright,” which he expects will cost about $6,000 in addition to his research. To that end, he has launched a Kickstarter campaign. It’s almost hit its goal, but if the project exceeds expectations, then the project can expand. This could include a more detailed biography, more never-been-published photographs and additional time in the recording studio.
To learn more about the project online or to donate, visit kickstarter.com and search by typing in Oak Park. As of Monday morning, the project was at 89 percent of its goal, with $5,345. The deadline to pledge online is Friday, Aug. 24.